While the shortened NHL season may be back in full swing, a new report says the league's brand was badly damaged by the lockout.
According to the report by branding consultancy firm Brand Finance Canada, the lockout dropped the NHL's brand value by over $300 million to $1.56 billion.
By comparison, the NFL's brand is worth the most of the major North American leagues at $9.1 billion, followed by Major League Baseball at $4.4 billion and the NBA at $2.7 billion.
The report determines the value of each team's brand based on each team's revenue and potential for future revenue.
"The NHL now has a 20-year history of creating periods of lost revenue during its lockouts, and in each case the NHL brand value has been slow to return before rising again,” said Edgar Baum, managing director of Brand Finance Canada, in a statement.
The report said the lockout fuelled resentment towards the league, leaving individual teams to regain fans' trust. The report also highlights the imbalance between the most valuable teams in the league and the least valuable, saying it puts the onus of rebuilding onto a relatively small number of teams.
Teams, especially teams in smaller markets in the U.S., have been forced to offer deep discounts on ticket prices and concessions in order to bring fans back into arenas.
It's an issue of balance, says Baum. The top 10 NHL franchises are worth 55 per cent of the league's overall value, while the bottom 10 teams are worth less than 20 per cent.
Canadian teams are a big part of the league's brand power, with the seven franchises accounting for 35 per cent of the league's overall brand value.
"What remains to be seen is how long the resentment — and diminished valuation — will last," Baum says.
The report runs counter to some early evidence that so far, fans are returning to the game. Attendance is higher than last year, with 18 teams selling out every game so far, and just four teams selling fewer than 90 per cent of available tickets. It's now yet clear how many of those tickets were offered at deep discounts.
On the first day of the season, television ratings in both the U.S. and Canada hit record highs, and ratings continue to stay high in most regional markets in the U.S.
The Dallas Stars, a franchise that has long been financially unstable, has seen its ratings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — the fifth-largest regional TV market in the U.S. — double.
The NHL also has begun a 10-year television contract with NBC Sports, worth $2 billion over the life of the contract.